I posted the abstract for my talk on "Thoreau's Sounding Earth" in an earlier blog entry (Feb. 28, 2012) and since then I've written about the first two lectures in the Sustainability Unbound series at the University of New Hampshire last March. I'd delayed posting about my presentation there on "Thoreau's Sounding Earth" until they'd posted full videos and podcasts of the lectures on line. Now that they've done so, I feel a bit like Emily Dickinson's public frog, but at any rate here is the link in case readers of this blog would like to see and hear the lecture:
Videos of four of the five lectures have been posted to that web page; only Lewis Hyde's is missing. To view or download any of them, for free, just click on the links on that page. The videos show in very high quality, a tribute to the technology that UNH used.
My presentation begins with an introduction by my old friend and colleague Burt Feintuch, the director of the Humanities Center at UNH. After his introduction, I speak for about an hour on Thoreau's remarkable understanding of the soundscape, particularly but not exclusively in response to the sounds of the natural world, drawing many examples from his Journal, and relating it to sustainability issues. This is followed by a period of questions and answers. It was unusually warm in New England during those two days--the temperature got up in the high 80s in Durham, New Hampshire where we were, late in March, which was about 40 degrees higher than normal. Some of the UNH sustainability faculty introducing us commented that a sign of global warming must have risen to the occasion, showing me that scientists have their moments of magical thinking.
The lecture that followed mine, by Enrique Leff, was very interesting to me in that it showed a scholar from Mexico who had come through many of the same thought processes I had concerning cultural sustainability within an ecological framework, particularly ecological economics. While I didn't speak about that at UNH, I've written about it extensively on this blog, delivered papers at conferences on the topic, and published essays on it. My movements toward Thoreau reflect my growing interest in acoustic ecology and sound studies, which of course do relate to music and sustainability. But Leff used some different metaphors than I do, and his conclusions were also ones that I could not fully accept. I will write more about that in the coming weeks.